Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Then and Now

Lately I have been experiencing an unsual quantity of self-doubt. Normally I am happy to roll with being myself without thinking about it all too much, but lately I've been aware of my current positions in life; as a friend, girlfriend, daughter and sister, as a postgraduate, as a twenty-something who should be revelling in being young and free and beautiful. I feel frustrated by myself, by my space, by my body, by the way I spend my free time.

For the first time, I find myself sizing myself up against someone else - an unhealthy habit that I've managed to avoid for the past 22 years. The most frustrating thing about that someone else is that it is myself; I look back to me one year ago, and I see someone excited by the present, enthusiastic about the future. A girl interested in the world around her, with time to read slowly and ponder the words, enjoying Philip Larkin with breakfast, Plato before bed. Waking to a morning yoga routine, falling asleep late after spending long summer evenings with friends.

On Sunday evening, during a lovely self-indulgent chat which prompted this post, a friend asked me to show her my favourite photo of myself. I chose a photo which was taken on the veranda of a bar in York looking over the river, as I sipped a very expensive glass of Pimm's before my Summer Ball: officially my last night as an undergraduate in York. To me, the photo reflects the simple joy of that time; a degree behind me, a degree ahead of me. Days filled with everything I love, surrounded by amazing friends and a man I had just fallen in love with. I'd moved into my own flat and was relishing the sense of 'self' and independance that I was finding there.

I've been reflecting on these feelings for a little while, thinking more about the girl in this photo in relation to the girl sitting at this table. The fact will always remain that those days are gone - they were always going to be that amazing, and they were always going to be short-lived. But here I'm on the brink of living out some real dreams, things I have to work for, search for and earn. It's less glamourous, less fun and, for now at least, less exciting. And that's ok; I'm happy with my lot, probably even happier than I was back then. But the circle that I've come round through doubting myself has left me with a sense of urgency for the little joys that were some commonplace when I didn't have blank space waiting for my 20,000 words. I need to start thinking more frivolously again, reading more slowly and more often, taking time to cook and taste food, indulging in real conversation with the people I want to know more about. Living slowly and peacefully and with gratitude for the small things that my world has in such abundance.


  1. Everything comes in cycles and life is one big work in progress. Just keep remembering to let the inner child come out and play :)

  2. When I was 18 years old I wrote myself a letter to be read when I turned 21. I still have the letter.

    I wrote it over thirty years ago now.

    How wonderful to read the self doubts of a beautifully written 22 year old with so much ahead of you.

    All I can say is that by and large it gets better and then you look back on those days as you are already doing here with fondness and some mixed feelings.

    It can be hard to enjoy the moment, but it's worth a try.

  3. I do enjoy reading your posts.
    Life changes and we change with it. Well hopefully we do! My sister accused me (along with a whole host of other things!) of not being the same person I was at 41 as the person I was at 18! Thank goodness I thought!
    We grow with our live experiences and if we can remember to do it more mindfully then it can only help us be happy and enjoy life as we go.Well that's what I think anyway!
    Thanks for saying I was creative, I'm really not, just like nicking other peoples good ideas!
    Lisa x

  4. i love how no matter what your posts are always o honest. its beautiful.
    i know what you mean.. comparing yourself to other people or focusing on the past too much. what i realize what i do is i idealize the past. i think about how great it was when really i'm not remembering all the hard times too. its easy to think a part in your life was the best.. its what i struggle with. remembering that no, it wasn't perfect.. maybe easier than now but never perfect.

    your last paragraph is just simply wonderful.

  5. Live every moment as if it was the best moment of your life. There will always be good times, bad times - even better times - but all that we have is the chance to live for now, today. Yesterday has gone and tomorrow has yet to come.

    Memories are just lessons frozen in time that we can choose to ignore - or embrace and learn from so that today and tomorrow is a better place. It sounds like you're doing a fantastic job - reaching for the dreams of tomorrow with your partner, your education and your dreams.

    But what I always love about your blog is that you focus so much on today, the here and the now! The bike ride to the river to read a book in peace. The beautiful cottage in Ireland where you experienced such serenity without the need for any technology! The slow preparation of food that you love - even though it's all eaten in 5 minutes!

    All of these things are so beautiful - and testament to the fact that this is who you are - what you live and breathe - and so you will tackle every day, every challenge, and every future dream in the same beautiful way.

    You are the same girl in that photograph - but more beautiful, more wiser and definitely more connected to the world that we live in.

  6. Thank you so much, each of you, for your comments. I love reading your thoughts, and I always take in what you say and value it completely. I started this blog completely for myself - I had no idea that people would read it, and since then it has become something to share; it's really made me aware of what I write, but it hasn't changed it - the comments I get always reassure me that I can be honest in my writing, and that really means a lot.

    We all get lost sometimes, and I find this is the best place to do so, and that's because of all of you! :-)